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My Take: It’s time for evangelicals to speak up about guns
December 28th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: It’s time for evangelicals to speak up about guns

Editor’s note: Daniel Darling is a pastor, author and speaker in the Chicago area. His latest book is "Real: Owning Your Christian Faith." He tweets at @dandarling.

By Daniel Darling, Special to CNN

(CNN) – The Bible doesn’t clearly express an opinion on the possession of guns, but many evangelicals defend the unlimited distribution of firearms with the same fervor that they defend biblical orthodoxy. According to a recent Public Religion Research Institute survey, 8% of white evangelical Protestants favor tighter gun laws.

But in the wake of yet another deadly school shooting, it’s time for evangelicals to contribute to the national discussion beyond: “It’s not guns that kill people, it’s people that kill people.”

In fairness to gun enthusiasts, no reasonable observer could pin the blame for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting solely on the lack of effective gun laws. Even President Barack Obama and other influential voices have called for a balanced approach that looks not only at guns but also at mental illness, violent video games and a culture of fatherlessness that produces young troubled men. And the research about the effectiveness of gun controls laws seems mixed at best.

Still evangelicals should not defend the use, proliferation and availability of assault weapons with as much vigor as they defend their faith. In spite of some who insist the Second Amendment is drawn from the Bible, there is no clear-cut Christian position on gun control.

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On one level, the Bible affirms the government’s first and most basic job to protect its citizens, especially the most vulnerable, our children. Romans 13 reminds us that government is “God’s servant for our good.” The Bible also gives high priority to the welfare of children.

At times, the Bible seems to affirm the right to self-defense. Even when Jesus famously told Peter to put down his sword during Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, he didn’t tell Peter to destroy the sword but put it in its rightful place.

On the other hand, the Scripture is pretty clear that Christians should not only oppose violence but should be advocates for the sanctity of human life. This doesn’t simply apply to abortion but to any unlawful taking of human life. Advocating for life also includes taking care of children's and others' well-being after they are born. Each life is created in the image of God; therefore, death is the work of the evil one (1 John 3:15). The Apostle Paul labels death God’s final enemy. Christians are also called to be “peacemakers” and not lovers of violence.

Given the lack of a straightforward biblical imperative for or against guns, faithful followers of Christ should be more flexible in their opinions on this issue.

Why can’t we support sensible restrictions, such as a ban on military-style combat weapons? These weapons seem to serve no purpose other than the glorification of violence. If we take seriously the command to protect our children, we’ll avoid the risk of these weapons getting into the hands of unstable people. Sure, a ban won’t eliminate all weapons, especially those purchased illegally, but it may reduce the chance of another Sandy Hook massacre.

Massacre of children leaves many asking, 'Where’s God?'

We also should also advocate making it harder for people to acquire guns, even sensible weapons purchased for self-defense or hunting. Gun ownership should be a privilege earned by good behavior and conferred only on the most trustworthy of our citizens. I think we can do this without disrespecting the Second Amendment, which besides guaranteeing the right to bear arms calls for this right to be “well-regulated.” As blogger Marty Duren says, “While the Second Amendment provides the right to keep and bear (“carry”) arms, it does not necessitate the right to own any armament the mind of man can create.”

New gun laws won’t prevent every future crime, but perhaps a few common-sense regulations would help destroy a culture of violence that so tempts young troubled men.

Some will argue that new restrictions only hurt those who are already law-abiding. This may be so. But as Christians called to care for the common good of our communities, we should be willing to endure the inconvenience if it saves one child from death.  Since 9/11, we have all endured more hassle at the airport to prevent even one terrorist from killing our fellow citizens.

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Followers of Christ know that it is ultimately not the gun that kills, but evil that resides in every human heart. And yet it is precisely this belief in total depravity that might inform our views on gun control. In a fallen world, the most vulnerable among us need protection from those who cannot or will not discern right from wrong. (Ironically, this is the focus of the Christian anti-abortion argument.) Let’s not put instruments of death so close to hands that would do evil.

At the end of the day, living out our faith requires that we do more than simply react in a defensive posture but engage in this important debate. We can protect the cherished right to bear arms in self-defense and still make sure unnecessary and violent weapons are not sold on our store shelves and online and are not accessible by those in our communities who would use them to commit acts of aggression and murder.

Furthermore, an unwillingness to entertain common-sense restrictions casts the evangelical faith in an unnecessarily unfavorable light. It may cause some to think we love our guns more than our neighbors.

There are many things about which Christians should be unyielding; the right to own a killing machine should not be one of them.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Daniel Darling.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Evangelical • Guns

soundoff (2,819 Responses)
  1. Dan

    If we were made in his image then why aren't we invisible too?

    December 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • 111ken111

      Invisible only to the ones in fear.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  2. Paul Dick

    The Bible says 'THOU SHALT NOT KILL'

    December 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Walter

      Actually, Dick, the Bible says, "Thou shalt not murder." "Kill" is just the common mistranslation. Otherwise, you wouldn't have, mere verses and chapters later, Biblical edicts for taking care of witches, adulterers and fornicators by ...

      Wait for it ...

      Wait for it ...

      You guessed it! Stoning and killing!

      The commandment against "killing" is against MURDER, not against self-defense and not against a just application of punishment by society.

      You actually ever THOUGHT about actually reading that book you pretend to be able to quote?

      December 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • BTLProd

      Though it is a little fuzzier on the subject of Kneecaps.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  3. sjones

    Thank you. As a woman of Baptist faith, I've been waiting to hear this in the mainstream media.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  4. Tom Buffington

    I see the anti-gun people are going out of their way to find anyone they can to speak out against guns. How people who, while reading this, are allowing their children to stay alone in their rooms playing violent video games, or letting them watch a splatter movie on the tv? If the simple answer to ending the violence is banning weapons then tell me why, after World War Two, when all those veterans who had been trained in using and did use high powered weapons, and in many cases did kill others, this nonsense didn't occur? We give these sub-humans what they want, a sick sort of world record for slaughtering innocents, and wonder why the next one comes along. Take away the sick and violent media and the publicity, don't even name them in the media. Roll them in an unmarked grave and never mention their name again.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • 111ken111

      Many sickness are real diseases. Become responsible and live in faith and learn,

      December 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Walter

      111ken111 - Ken, Ken, Ken, Ken, Ken, live in faith and learn? Absolutely! But let's not confuse "living in faith" with stupidity and/or a lack of common sense.

      Did Jesus tempt God by leaping off the mountain when tempted by Satan? Of course not. Did God offer commandments and instructions to the Jews on ways to deal with the future, including stockpiling food and rotating crops? Of course He did.

      Will God save you if you "live by faith" and walk out onto the freeway? Maybe. Maybe not. That's all up to Him.

      But He certainly expects us to live intelligently and accordance with His laws as they are revealed to us in the natural world. We are to be good stewards of His gifts to us, including the gift of life, and we are to protect it.

      Our faith should be in Him to protect us from those things which we are too ignorant or too stupid to understand or that are beyond our own personal, frail means, but not the things that we can grasp and prepare for.

      God didn't instruct our Biblical forefathers to prepare for lean years by storing food by saying, "Well, just trust Me, guys! No need to actually DO anything!" God didn't raise up Judges in Israel to defend His people against invaders and just suggest they lay back and relax and "live by faith," doing nothing whatsoever. He didn't instruct David to survive by just standing around and "living in faith" in Him and not taking ANY action when Saul came to kill him.

      And God doesn't expect us to be good stewards of our property and our lives by giving them up to murderers and sneak-thieves when they come for them.

      "Live by faith?" Always. But Jesus Himself said that we should not tempt the Lord our God. It's all a matter of balance. "Living by faith" does NOT mean acting like a moron. Give your life for another? Absolutely! Give your life for nothing! Well, that's pretty much spitting in God's face, isn't it?

      Really, sir, a bit of reading comprehension might serve you well. Try the Holy Bible for yourself. You might like it.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Bonnie

      Walter, please read Psalm 91.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Ken

      Tom, you are so right. It comes down to the parents. When you let your kid live in the basement paying video games or wander in the street with thugs or choose for the government or some person you don't even know to raise your children so you can seek the career of your dreams you are to blame for their actions. But these type people are always looking for someone or something to blame other than themselves.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Walter

      Bonnie – Psalm 91? Really? That's your answer. Couldn't you be more specific? Say, Psalms 91:11-13 – "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." Is that one of the verses you meant.

      Well, here's my response - "It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test." (Luke 4:12) (Deut 6:16)

      Do you even REALIZE how incredibly ironic and hilarious it is that your answer to Truth, is to quote THE EXACT PSALM THAT SATAN QUOTED TO JESUS ON THE TEMPLE?!?!?! LOL!!!

      Trust in God, but prepare for what your limited human means can. When Joseph told Pharaoh to store up for lean years, was he depending solely on God? No. He was depending on God FOR THE THINGS THAT HE COULD NOT PREPARE FOR HIMSELF!

      I swear - there are common sense Christians who live by faith and follow ALL HIS COMMANDMENTS and then there are the pick-and-choose, no-understanding, ignorant Christians who can quote a couple of Bible verses (turn the other cheek, thou shalt not kill and judge not being the most popular amongst your ilk) who LITERALLY have NO READING COMPREHENSION SKILLS AT ALL and for whom CLEARLY The Lord has not chosen to reveal the most basic of Biblical tenets.

      Isaiah 7:11 – "Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights." Notice what that doesn't say? It doesn't say "Do whatever and have faith and you'll always survive." Ask God for a sign. Don't tempt Him.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  5. tc4012

    nice goatee Daniel... seriously why does your opinion even matter on the subject? Your entire mission is nothing more than to start up your little church in a strip mall and live off the fruits of others. Seriously – get a real job a STFU. CNN – your a joke – keep pushing your agenda – what a pathetic joke – no wonder your ratings suck...

    December 29, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • 111ken111

      Show your true glory.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • I am the truth

      And yet you continue to show up here to eagerly listen to each and every CNN story, don't you, sweetie? Whatta matter? False Noise Network kinda slow today with their spewing points? That too bad, huh?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  6. cathrat

    "The Bible doesn’t clearly express an opinion on the possession of guns" – maybe because they didn't exist in the bronze age.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • 111ken111

      True, but as the author shows the bible handles the situation very good.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Bonnie

      Actually, the author demonstrates that he misquotes scripture and has no clear knowledge of God concerning the fact that there is no need for weaponry if our relationship with God is genuine. See God's own word at Psalm 91, where our Almighty God clearly describes who He will protect and rescue, and why.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  7. dajowi

    According to the Justice Department 80% of all crime is committed by gangs. Want to wipe out 80% of all crime, wipe out the gangs.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • 111ken111

      And fear.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Walter

      111ken111 - We're taking suggestions right now on how to wipe out fear? Any bright ideas? (This should be good.)

      December 29, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  8. Ken

    You can lead a typical CNN reader and supporter to water but you can't make them drink. Willful ignorance once combined with stupidity is one of the reasons we're in the mess we're in.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • 111ken111

      Many are Christians and appealing to their God given faith will get us across this deadly gulf of fear.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  9. Rocky

    No. Evangelicals are not repository of morality. They should keep their business confined to minding the janitorial duties of the places of worship. A person educated in Divinity does not meet the stringent requirements to go into more analytic disciplines which require critical / structured thinking. Their thinking is constrained by the scripture they recite like parrots. Instead, sociologists, criminologists and law enforcement pundits must get the podium

    December 29, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Chizzle

      @Rocky

      The law your enforcers abide and practice their profession by is based in Christian text and drawn from biblical sources.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Bonnie

      Especially if they can't even quote scripture properly, thus missing the point or walking away with a false notion about what was stated. God's word provides every answer to everything we need to know and yet, per this article, they have no "clear cut" "Christian" postiion". Then they write books.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  10. anniem

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think they had guns in Jesus' time...

    December 29, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Cathi

      nor bombs. Perhaps each family should be allowed to own their own bomb for self protection .... what's next?

      December 29, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Jesus had mind bullets and spiritual dirty bombs.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • The Swede

      And they did not have our kind of guns when they wrote the 2nd amendment...

      December 29, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  11. Peter Bishop

    The issue still resides in the hearts and minds of men. You can't reach or teach morality to the crazy, you can only try and limit their access to getting weapons (which may be almost impossible). The woman who appeared to be a mental case shoved the guy in front of subway train in Queens, made a choice to use the subway train as an instrument of death.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Scott

      Yeah, but should could never have pushed 20 people onto the tracks.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Scott

      She

      December 29, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  12. blerg

    jesus said to turn the other cheek. if you are a Christian, it's as simple as that. if you don't believe in that philosophy, don't pretend to be a christian.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Ava W

      Does that mean you will allow your neighbor to kill your kids? That is turning your other cheek. Think for goodness sake. Your argument does not hold. It is just plain incoherent.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Walter

      You should read your Bible a little more. How was that cheek turned in the temple with the money-lenders, hmmm?

      December 29, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • morrissey53

      True, but please read Luke 22:36 and see that Jesus advocates self defense among his disciples. He knew his followers needed to defend themselves in the last days....

      December 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Blerg,

      Turn the other cheek is a good one. You may also want to consider removing the log from your own eye before you try to get the speck out of your brothers. Judge not, lest you be judged. Of course if you aren’t a Christian, the only thing you need to worry about is establishing your own relationship with Jesus. Peace.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  13. Emelia

    Um, I'm Christian and I hate guns. Why don't you interview some of us?

    December 29, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  14. Burple

    Evangelicals are the most hypocritical people to populate this country.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • disgustedvet

      Kinda like folks who proudly wear the label of "Liberal " who so obviously are unaware of the meaning of that word.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Pam

      I'm sorry.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  15. Bonnie

    Here is the actual account of what Jesus said: "Then Jesus said to him: "Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword." Matthew 26:52. I checked three different Bible translations and there is no word "rightful" describing its place. Jesus' message was one of peace; it is clear that he indicated that those living by violence will die by violence. (there were no guns back 2,000 years ago) Jesus' God and Father tells us clearly who He will protect and rescue, and why, at Psalm 91. If our relationship with God is genuine, no need for guns.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Jesus speaking in Luke 11:21
      “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:”

      December 29, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Dave

      Right on!

      December 29, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Dan

      That is the actual account of what a guy thought an imaginary guy would have said.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Bonnie

      You apparently forgot the remainder of what Jesus said in verse 22. "But when someone stronger than he is, comes against him and conquers him, he takes away his full armament in which he was trusting , and he divides out the things he despoiled of him." Luke 11:22. No weapon necessary.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  16. David

    CNN's answer to self defense: Equip your home with an alarm system and video equipment so the police can have something to watch after you've been murdered.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • 111ken111

      You will probably shoot your foot in fear.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Walter

      111ken111 - He might shoot his foot in fear, but hopefully, the ricochet gets you, ken, right between the eyes.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • 111ken111

      Fear will make many say as you. Seak death of the life messenger. You have failed and your fear will destroy you if you do not repent.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  17. 111ken111

    Ones who want assault rifles are acting in fear. They do not believe our God given country will protect us. They are in fact against our country because of living in fear and believe our country will try to destroy them. They are haters of our country not true citizens. The God given USA is being destroyed by these fear mongers and it is time for Christians to take action and SHUT UP these UN Americans with laws. Then they will only murmur to ones who will listen to them a flock of satanic bread thinking. Some may have these guns not understanding this and please rid yourself of these guns and live the faith of God believing your God given country will also follow God’s will allowing Him to protect us, He has done it before and will do it in the future as we believe in Him.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Walter

      You're clearly coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs, aren't you? "Satanic bread thinking?" What is that? "Devil bread pondering?" Are those Little Debbies starting to talk to you again, 111ken111?

      December 29, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Actually

      We don't have a "God" given country. We took this country as people from other people. It was never written "Go west across the sea and take the land in my name." Get a grip.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  18. William

    Dan means well and has the nice goal of protecting children, but he should take a careful look at his own state and city before jumping to conclusions about how to accomplish his goal. Illinois has a statewide concealed weapons ban and Chicago passed very restrictive gun control measures making it virtually impossible for ordinary Second City residents to own or possess a gun of any sort. And how has the ban on guns effected violent crime rates now that only criminals have guns? Just take a look at this year for your answer. Yesterday, police confirmed that the city had just logged its 500th homicide. Compare that to states and cities that allow law-abiding citizens to get gun training and carry concealed weapons, and you will see that armed, law abiding citizens do more to deter violent crime than banning guns does.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • insi10

      The sheer idiocy of your remarks is astounding. In New York, where there is no budget shortfall for policing, and it's a police priority to get guns off the street, murders declined 19% in 2012. In Chicago, where budget cuts are reducing the police force, murders rose 15%. Comparing cities to the suburbs and the country - where lower middle-class whites flee to because cities scare them - is comparing apples to oranges.

      Of course, facts clearly don't enter your thinking. You're a gun nut.

      Me? I used to own guns. I plan to buy one again because where I now live, predators (mountain lions, coyotes, aggressive bears) sometimes wander into town from the hills above, and the lions stalk hikers. But when I lived in LA, I would never have considered owning a gun. Getting guns off the street made Hollywood MUCH safer than it was these past few years than my previous time there in the 1980s, when guns and drug dealing were widespread.

      Maybe try thinking the subject through instead of reacting, GUN NUT.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Ken

      William, what you have said makes too much sense for a typical CNN reader to understand.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Ken

      INS10 is crying about how he would never own a gun in the city but plans to buy one now that he lives in the country and he calls you a gun nut. WOW. Where do theses morons come from. Double standard idiocy. Too much smog probably. Bet he's taking anti-depressants or some type psy-drug.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  19. SCBAMA

    He can have his opinion but it is not based on the facts. Police in Chicago say it is not the guns but the lack of parental guidance. Get invovled with your kids Chicago and this problem will go away.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • SCBAMA

      Politicians want you to believe it is the guns. Rahm just like his boss OBama just suck at being leaders.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  20. rudysmom

    the Bible also says, He who lives by the Sword, dies by the Sword.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:36 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.